Friday will be FC Cincinnati’s last showing of the 2017 preseason. The Orange & Blue return to the Xavier Soccer Complex after defeating the Musketeers 2-0 in the 2016 preseason. Xavier should offer a good test for FC Cincinnati as the days number in the single-digits before the 2017 USL regular season opener. Here are 5 things to know before the FC Cincinnati take on the Xavier Musketeers.
Where: Cincinnati, OH– Xavier Soccer Complex
When: Friday, March 17th at 7:00 p.m. EST
5 Things to Know
Replacing Okoli – One of the biggest issues going into the 2017 preseason was replacing the 16 goals from Sean Okoli. After Okoli’s departure, GM Jeff Berding went on the market and added forwards Andy Craven, Victor Mansaray, Daryl Fordyce and Djiby Fall. Over the six preseason contests (including US U-17 scrimmage), this group has accounted for 6 goals and 2 assists over limited action. If you account for the disallowed goal in the first preseason match off a poor VAR decision, Fall would have notched 5 goals in his short span in the Orange & Blue. Coach Koch has looked to add as many of these potent strikers into the XI, playing the corps in a variety of positions. It is possible that Mansaray and Fordyce come out of the midfield to add to the attack and Craven could come off the wing or as one of the first subs off the bench. While Okoli was a memorable player in Cincinnati, it looks like Berding & co. have built a solid front line to contend in 2017.
Center-back Solution – The injury to Captain Austin Berry looked to have been worse than originally thought. The club issued a statement on Tuesday mentioning that Berry would only be out for 2-3 weeks. Berry was having a great preseason and looked to enter 2017 as the undisputed leader on the back-line. With his injury, FC Cincinnati invited 2 players to trial last week with both putting in decent showings vs. UC. I would think that we would at least see 1 on Friday, but I have heard a rumor that an additional CB may have been in discussions with the club. Regardless, Coach Koch looks to have found more depth for the Lionhearted and this group should be ready for 2017.
Finding the Right Formation – Coach Alan Koch ran out a 4-1-4-1 through 4 preseason friendlies but employed a 4-2-3-1 in the match vs. UC. On our podcast with the gaffer, Koch stated that three formations would be used in 2017. FC Cincinnati looked comfortable in the 4-2-3-1 setup that was used throughout most of the 2016 season. The noticeable change on the field was the Kenney Walker worked well with Aodhan Quinn on runs forward and that the wing-backs, especially Matt Bahner were able to get high into the attack. We will see if Koch looks to make this more of a permanent solution this weekend or if a third option is in play.
What FC Cincinnati Has to Work On – Problems are apparent in both the 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 when balls are played in-between the defensive midfielders and the center-backs, causing confusion and defensive errors. This scenario played out at certain points during last week’s friendly with UC. With time, midfielder Aodhan Quinn should feel more comfortable in those situations, but look for Xavier to attack those spaces. Another area of weakness was on the counter. When the wing-backs are involved with the attack, it left large areas of space open to attack if FC Cincinnati would turn the ball over. Trialist #32 and Harrison Delbridge were able to hold up the UC attack in these situations last week, but USL offensive players may take better advantage of this in the regular season. One issue seen in the 4-1-4-1 vs. Sacramento was the exposure when opponents transferred the ball to opposite sidelines and changed the point of attack. With 2 defensive midfielders, this will be easier to defend, but I hope FC Cincinnati will improve vs. Xavier.
Musketeers Aren’t A Pushover – The Xavier squad hosting FC Cincinnati will return a large roster from their 2016 Fall season. Xavier lost three seniors and should be able to march out a veteran squad Friday night. Junior Center-back Cory Brown is a two-time Big East defender of the year and was on the NCAA Best XI by Top Drawer Soccer. The defender from New Zealand will feature professionally one day and will be a difficult matchup for the FCC front line. Left-back Matt Nance was also All-Big East and will look to contribute with Big East All-Freshman team member Derrick Otim. Xavier defeated UC 4-2 in their crosstown rivalry match in 2016 and will give FC Cincinnati a good test before their USL opener.
Pre-Match Party at Listermann Brewing
Supporters will meet beginning at 4 p.m. and will depart from Listermann to the match around 6:30 p.m. Supporters Groups will also be competing in a friendly drinking competition. Listermann is releasing their annual St. Patrick’s Day beer called Shamrock Shake, and supporters groups are submitting a variant to be put into a cask with an ingredient of their choosing! Whoever sells the most beer before the march to the game will have $1 from every pint donated to a charity of their choosing, and the winning SG will have their scarf displayed at the brewery for the remainder of the year. Think of it like an online poll, but beers are votes!
TV: NO STREAM WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR FRIDAY’S MATCH
Tickets to the match are $5 for adults and $3 for kids.Tickets are available at the Xavier Soccer Complex or are available online HERE.